Monday, July 13, 2015

High Power Review: UV-82HP / UV-5R Radio Comparison



Can a measly few watts of power make much difference? 

When folks at Baofeng Tech asked me if I’d review the new 8 Watt UV-82HP UHF/VHF ham radio, the FIRST thing I thought of was comparing two different models against each other at their max power setting, and see how great a difference there was in range. A totally unscientific comparison, but doable, since I already own two Baofeng’s, two Baofeng UV-5R’s. I figured it would settle, (at least in my mind), the range question from a practical standpoint, plus give a reference point radio to compare. 

Let’s start with a first impression…

UV-82HP: you can play the FM radio for three full days at work on a full battery charge. 
For some, (like me), that’s important. It’s also a practical test of current drain, like turned on scanning memory banks all day. Figure perhaps 18 to 24 hours service between charges & light duty cycles.   Audio volume & clarity is VERY impressive. I'm also impressed with the radio's fit & feel. There's substance to the radio, but because of it’s slim form factor, there's no problem with it clipped to a pants pocket all day. It’s not a bulky brick. 
If ever I hear some blow-hard spout off about "cheap Chinese Radios" I'd hit them with this one... it'd leave a dent.  
The LED flashlight has a enclosed lens & reflector, a great improvement too. I've always loved the handy flashlight on both of my UV-5R's... this one's a lot brighter

UV-5R: (First this Crevat: I LOVE my UV5-R's The radio resembles a handheld radio version of a Sherman Tank, a small Sherman Tank. The '82 is slim & curvy, the '5R, like a leading edge of a bowling ball. While part of it's appeal has been it's utilitarian chunkiness, I always found the '5R to be a bit top heavy clipped to my belt, the antenna trying to upend the radio, so I seldom kept the radio clipped to my side for long. I usually just carried it. As for volume, compared to the '82...it's no comparison, the 5R's speaker sounds thin & tinny, the female voice commands a mumble most of the time, except when saying "Low Voltage" after a long day turned on.  

Please understand, I know I'm comparing Apples to Oranges here, the UV-82HP is a different radio model from a feature standpoint... as I soon found out, testing how both worked from a level playing field.

Rubber meets Road...RF meets Ozone
Testing for typical performance, I used both of my stock UV-5R HT’s & the '82HP at the same power output, to compare signal reports through a local repeater about 5 miles away.
I discovered the UV-82HP receiver had some signal fading due to antenna orientation, vertical being distinctly stronger than horizontal. So did the UV-5R's, only not as much.
Yippie Ki... Huh? What?
Holding the radio upright, the received signal clears up fine. It’s not a big problem, it just means I can’t look cool holding the radio sideways like they do on TV or in the movies.

All things the same, only different...
It turns out under identical power levels & operating conditions, the UV-82HP’s transmitted audio signal into the repeater was louder than both UV-5R’s. This was confirmed through signal reports from my contact, who didn’t know which radio I was using. Perhaps carrier deviation is just hotter in this particular HT, but over all, the UV-82HP had a better quality signal than both of my UV5-R’s. Actually, I’m more lead to think it's the battery capacity of the different radio models making the difference, the UV-5R’s using stock 1500 mAh. batteries, vs the UV-82HP, with 1800 mAh. (That’s a little radio tech secret… you get a cleaner signal with greater battery capacity.) 
The batteries and supplied chargers are not interchangeable between the UV-82HP & the UV-5R.  
This may also explain the longer times between charges, just listening to the FM radio.

The Main Event
On testing range, I tried all three... the two UV-5R's, and the UV-82HP, to get into a distant repeater, each using their highest transmit power.
It ended up being no contest...
For this test, I worked into the 1500' blowtorch of the Pee Dee region, the W4PDE 2 meter repeater outside of Dillion SC, 57 miles away, it covers a 125 mile radius. 

With several attempts, both UV-5R’s couldn't raise the repeater, no response at all. 
I expected that, it was quite a stretch for 4 watt UV-5R’s to get that far, with me standing at street level. But surprisingly, the UV-82HP hit the repeater first time with ease.  My contact, Tim W2SOC, reported my signal clear & readable with some white noise. Still, a VERY respectable report. Later on that evening, back home, The UV-82HP reached the Dillion repeater again, this time at 50 miles. Sadly again, both UV-5R’s couldn’t cut the mustard. In the past, I had got into the Dillion repeater from my front porch with one of my UV-5R's ...on a good day. It wasn't one of those days for a UV-5R, but another day in paradise for the UV-82HP.


 

All things being the same, the UV-82HP has better signal quality overall than my UV-5R's. As for it’s greater power settings, it’s obvious the radio’s range is significantly greater.

Showing Off...
At this years local field day, the UV-82HP was the belle of the ball because it was NEW! 

I got the radio in the hands of as many Hams as I could for their feedback.  Owners of UV-5R’s liked it's fit & finish, and everyone liked it's greater power output. Those who own older UV-82’s were envious, but knew it was the logical next step in the model line. 
The two-button PTT feature, used to select between two banks of memory, was initially confusing for UV-5R owners, but they quickly caught on to how it eliminates need to manually select between memory banks, and allows you to work two separate stations, just by pressing one or the other key button. If you don’t like the feature, you can turn it off in the settings using programming software. 
One noted the '82 seemed more geared for using preset memories, which it is, arriving out of the box set up in channel mode. You hold down the menu button when turning on, to switch the radio to frequency mode. I also showed both radios to Hams who don't own neither radio, asked them to pick which one they like. Most chose the UV-82HP over the UV-5R because it felt "more like a radio”, (One even called the '5R "a toy radio")

Assessing UV-82HP's set up & ease of use. 
Right off the bat I noticed manual programming is more refined than with the UV-5R series, however, a practiced hand is still needed to set up & load memories manually. It’s obvious the radio begs to be programmed plugged into a computer, using programming software like CHIRP.  Incidentally, the ’82 doesn't come with programming software or a USB programming cable. Not a problem with those who already have a earlier model Baofeng, but if you’re new to the brand, you should consider getting the programming cable too. Trust me, you’ll want one, even with this radio. The included manual is thick, informative, and written by someone here in the US.
Using the most recent daily build of CHIRP software, (it’s very good free software BTW), & accessing repeaterbook.com for the local repeater list, I had the radio on the air, 5 minutes out of the box.


Summing Up
I’m impressed with the UV-82HP, it's a big step up from the UV-5R, with a more refined design. Overall, the radio is easy to set up using programming software & a USB cable, (which most Baofeng radio owners already own), and it has plenty of transmit power. It’s a perfect alternative to the popular high power variant of the UV-5R, the Baofeng BF-F8HP. It appears cross-compatibility of batteries & chargers between same model series radios would be a factor. If your comfortable with how a UV-5R operates, and seek greater power, then go with the BF-F8HP. However if you seek a more refined design in functions & form, along with very respectable range, you should take a serious look at the UV-82HP, I think you’ll be very glad you did.

12 comments:

Craig Carnahan said...

Given that you used the same power level between the two different radios, it's a shame you didn't switch the antennas as well, as the standard antenna that ships with the UV-5R is well known to be a dog (performance wise), which is why Baofeng China offers the upgraded A85 antenna (that comes with the UV-82).

If you had switched the antennas (which is the main performance bump between the two models, not the 2 watt difference) you would have discovered your UV-5R would hold it's own against the UV-82 product line.

"If" Baofeng China ever figures out a way to make an extended 3800 mAh battery for the UV-82 series radios, they would certainly have more fans in the prepper community. BTW, if you like the higher power and the UV-5R accessories, you can always get the tri-power UV-5RTP model, you don't have to get an UV-82HP to get a couple of extra watts.

Of course if the extra wattage is really what you want, you should also look into the TYT TH-8000D model, which is rated at 10 watts on both VHF and UHF.

ConwayBob said...

Interesting observations, Craig.
However, I was simply seeking a straight up comparison between two different Baofeng models, One producing 4.8 watts, which BOTH the UV-5R's were measured at for 2 meters, and 8.3 Watts, what the UV-82HP puts out. I didn't include the bench test readings since the test is subjective to the accuracy of the test equipment. (Even though I TOTALLY trust the accuracy of the service monitor used to test) The difference in power between the two, while being more than a "couple of watts", is not really at issue, rather, it was the difference in effective range between the two that it was all about. I wasn't wanting to test the antenna, or the batteries. Instead I was just looking for a practical example in effective range between 5 watts & 8 watts, & I think the demonstration showed that nicely.

No doubt, if I was up on the roof instead of down in the parking lot, using a larger capacity battery instead of a stock battery, plus adding a hotter antenna, I would likely reach the repeater with the UV-5R's. But that wasn't the point. I was just comparing two dissimilar stock radios, and getting a subjective measure of performance under identical settings.

I never looked at it as a cost factor, but it's possible buying a UV5-R, a larger battery, AND a "better" antenna, would bring the cost close to the same as buying a UV-82HP, except the UV-5R would STILL be producing just 4 to 5 watts. The TYT TH-8000D is indeed a really nice 10 watt hand warmer, but at $20 more than the UV-82HP, again it begs the question... what is it worth for a couple more watts? And would someone have to buy larger batteries, and a hotter antenna as well, because while it's hitting a 50 mile distant repeater, it just can't reach the next one 60 miles away?

Malin said...

I have to agree with Craig... in part. If you just wanted to compare the radio models "out of the box" then you did a great job. And anyone considering one over the other could certainly use the info you provided.

However, if you wanted truely to compare the diference in range/performance based purely on Wattage, as you also claimed, you would have to eleminate all other variables; so you'd have to test with the same antenna, same battery capacity, etc.

For what it's worth: I have a UV-5RA. I've toggled between high & low power while keeping all else equal. My results were that if a repeater was on the fringe of the low power setting than high power was just enough to cary me in reliably, but for the most part wasn't worth the extra drain on the battery. Later, swapping to an aftermarket antenna physically closer to resonance was the most significant perfomance gain and gave beter "bang for the buck."

ConwayBob said...

I see your point Malin, & I agree my test wasn't as much a test of pure wattage, but more as a comparison of the two dissimilar models. Undoubtably, battery capacity had an effect, also the different antenna models. But as a practical test of the different models I still think it shown well the difference between the level of power's impact on performance. Incidentally, 56 miles is at the extreme edge of range for a handheld radio on the ground to reach to the Dillion Repeater, but as for the repeaters receive capability, it's not breaking a sweat. It can pull in decent ground stations on a treetop tower, as far as Savanna GA, some 90 miles further south, & mobile stations commonly check in the nightly nets from Charleston SC, 60 miles south of here. No doubt, if I was trying this from one of the Beachfront high-rise hotels I would of got in with the UV-5R's too. But I'll still stand behind the results. It was a quick & dirty method of comparing signal strength from just a couple watts difference, and a good comparison between the two models.

Craig Carnahan said...

The problem, Bob, is that you weren't actually comparing just the two radios with their individual wattage differences. You compared a UV-5R with the normal crappy antenna to the higher powered UV-82HP with a much better antenna.

The majority of the signal improvement was due to the better antenna, not the few watts of additional power. If you swap the antennas (and place the better antenna on the UV-5R and the crappy antenna on the UV-82) you'd see (or hear, since neither radio has an actual S-meter, both radios show full scale signals or nothing at all) that the extra power of the UV-82 is a marginal improvement (at best).

I'm glad you like the UV-82HP model, but preppers (and new hams) need to understand that a few watts difference rarely makes much difference on VHF/UHF frequencies, but antenna performance can make a very large difference.

ConwayBob said...

Hold it Craig. The difference in signal strength between the two radios is a shade under 2.5 dB. Regardless of the quality of the antenna of either radio, a 2.5dB increase in signal is sizable, especially for UHF & VHF frequencies. It greatly makes a difference in range. I still stand behind my findings, especially months afterward and after more use. The UV-82HP is indeed step up from the UV-5R in range, signal quality and ergonomics.

kevin strickland said...

I am new to this and am looking unto a UV-82HP I see you compared with the bf-f8? What would you say about the BF-FP v2 + how do these compare is one better than the other out of the box and which would be easier to learn with. Being I'm the new kid on the block? Thanks In Advance for your time!

Craig Carnahan said...

Bob, you are still comparing an orange to a basketball. Both are rounded, but that's about as far as they get to being similar. Had you actually switched the antennas you would have seen a far lower difference in performance between 8 watts and 5.

Instead you took a UV-82HP radio rated for 8 watts (on VHF only, 6 watts on UHF) with a vastly better standard antenna and compared it to a lower powered 5 watt (4 watts on UHF) UV-5R radio with a well-known dog of an antenna. Switch the two antennas between the two radios and you'll see nowhere near a 2.5db signal difference with the UV-82HP. Again, the main difference in signal strength is due to the better antenna shipped with the UV-82 series radios, not the extra few watts of power.

The same is true if I compare a 10 watt TYT TH-UV8000D with the 15" extended antenna it ships with to the 8 watt Baofeng UV-82HP with the shorter 7.5" A85 antenna on the UV-82HP. Of course the higher powered 10 watt TYT radio equipped with the better (and longer) antenna will outperform the UV-82 (at only 8 watts or 6 on UHF), but if I switched the antennas between the two radios the difference in performance would be far less, as again 10 watts (vs. 8) isn't the primary factor in your signal boost, it's the better antenna. Physics dictates you need a 4X increase in power to get a 1 "S" unit of signal increase when comparing the same antenna, same height, etc., etc.

As to ergonomics, I agree that the UV-82 series is better looking that the UV-5R series, but other factors also come into play. For some, the ability to have an "AA" shell pack for EMCOMM activities is a must, as is the larger extended 3800 mAh battery available for the UV-5R, UV-F8, and UV-F9 series radios. Those options (due to case design) just aren't available for the UV-82 series.

I own many different Baofeng, Wouxun, and TYT model radios, along with a fairly long list of Alinco, Icom, Kenwood and Yaesu products, including several 8 watt Baofeng radios.

"If" folks want to believe that 8 watts alone gives them a 2.5db signal increase (and ignore physics and simple testing to prove that as incorrect logic), then they are free to do so, as there are many sellers online that are quick to play marketing gimmicks to take their money.

Craig Carnahan said...

Kevin,

If you compare any of the 8 watt Baofeng units to one another, you first must realize how they stack up to one another.

The UV-5R family (and to me that includes the various cousins like the BF-F8 and BF-F9) all have models that offer 8 watts high-power on VHF and 6 watts high-power on UHF. The same is true with the UV-82 series (some are 5 watt versions while others are up to 8 watts).

Some of these models (but not all) include a better performing Baofeng A85 antenna that measures about 7.5" (vs. some that have a poorly performing 5" antenna). If you decide to purchase a BF-F9V2+ radio (and that normally comes with the lousy shorter antenna), you can upgrade the antenna to either the better A85 Baofeng model or go third-party altogether for not much more.

The advantage you get in staying within the UV-5R family is far more accessories are available, including "AA" shell pack cases (so you can use you own batteries), or a much longer lasting 3800 mAh extended battery. The extended battery even has a power pin-out near the top of the battery that allows you to re-charge it with a TYT 8.5v cigarette lighter charger (don't use a normal 12v charger or you'll risk causing a fire with the LiIon battery).

If your budget allows, you can also look into various TYT and Wouxun models. They tend to cost more, but have some features that are very appealing to some, like having scrambled audio (on the TYT TH-UVF8 model) or 10 watts of power with both a bigger battery and two different antennas (on the TYT TH-UV8000D model).

If you have followed this blog at all, you'll realize that a few extra watts of power alone does NOT greatly increase your signal at the receiving end, but having the longer, better performing 15" antenna (that comes with the TYT TH-UV8000D) and the bigger battery (3600 mAh) does have it's perks from time to time.

If you get the latest model of the Wouxun KG-UV8D radio with the 2600 mAh battery, you'll have 999 memories for frequency storage (an amount that will normally allow you to have at least one entire state's worth of repeaters programmed), but you'll also have a radio that allows cross-band repeat as an option. It's "only" 5 watts (which is normally plenty with the right antenna), but I find it's the most Japanese like of the numerous Chinese radios that I own and very popular with most hams I know.

All of the radio mentioned (and plenty more that I forgot to) have the ability to transmit all over the place, but for "max distance" you really need your amateur radio license, which is now easier to obtain than ever. If you have more questions that I didn't cover, drop me an email.

Erik Barkley said...

I liked the overall read, as well as the comments, however I'm still pretty unsure. As being really new to ham, still studying for my tech, I need some guidance on what to buy. Assuming I'm willing (and plan to) upgrade the antenna and battery, do I go with a uv5r, bff8hp, or uv82hp? I'm willing to pay up to $60 to get my first HT (plus accessories) if the extra $30ish is worth it for a starter unit. If not I'm fully excited and prepared to get the uv5r and go. Thanks!

Erik Barkley said...

Craig, I was hoping to possibly pick your brain, but can't figure out how to pm lol.

Craig Carnahan said...

Erik,

You can always give us a call on our toll-free number (866-448-4327 x300) or just drop me an email (Craig.N7LB@gmail.com).

As to your first question, none of the radios discussed are "bad" radios, but there are a number of things that most folks are unaware of, especially those new to radio communications.

Baofeng makes a variety of models, but not all of them are FCC Part 90 approved. You don't "need" a Part 90 radio if you plan on using them on the amateur radio service, but the Part 90 sticker (on Baofeng radios) means more than you think.

Baofeng does NOT test their radios at each step of the production line, they only test them at the end of the build cycle. Those that pass get the FCC ID sticker, those that fail get a different sticker (it looks like a trash can with a large X).

The problem is that Baofeng does not identify what caused the radio to fail their QC test. It might be low audio, or low power, or the radio being off-frequency, or even scratched plastic or keypad numbers in the wrong place. The problem is that you don't know why it failed, and most users don't want to spend $75 (or more) to have a $30 radio tested.

In general, Baofeng radios that passed their QC test and have the FCC ID sticker, tend to cost more.

If you would like some additional white papers on the various radios, their pro's and con's, drop me an email directly and I'll send you the files.

Craig

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